Exploration Green Tour

March 10th, 2020

Bayou City Initiative and Exploration Green would like to invite Clear Lake area residents and community members to an educational event that will share how the vision of Exploration Green became a reality. The event includes a presentation and an opportunity to tour Exploration Green, where attendees will have the chance to see the park up-close and learn from Exploration Green tour guides.

The event will take place on Saturday, March 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Clear Lake United Methodist Church, 16335 El Camino Real.

Exploration Green, a series of five stormwater detention pond parks converted from a former golf course, stands as a rare Harvey flood protection success story. With just Phase One–the first detention pond–partially installed, the project saved over 150 homes during Harvey in 2017. When people drove down the street and saw homes that used to flood hadn’t flooded, even some of the project’s biggest detractors became its biggest fans.

Not only has this flood protection park saved homes, it has improved property values, attracted hundreds of volunteers to learn about native plants, and revitalized the spirit of a community. Though its inception took years of negotiation and facing opposition, as a flood protection project, Exploration Green now leads the way in innovation and raises the bar for what is possible in Houston.

For more information on the event, visit the Facebook event page or the Eventbrite page.

Harvey Relief Help Available

February 5th, 2020

Small business members can apply for Harvey relief grants from $50,000 to $250,000 at Texas Back in Business, which is funded by Congress, under the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And the program is authorized by the Texas General Land Office.

The program is easy and free to apply for online. And best of all, if a small business receives funds and meets the requirements of the grant, no repayment is necessary. Small businesses will need to apply by March 2, 2020 at texasbackinbusiness.com

Hurricane Harvey Recovery Centers and Survey Are Open

April 16th, 2019

Houston Councilman Dave Martin would like to remind residents who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey to apply for assistance through recovery programs and resources under the City of Houston Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP).

The Recovery Survey is the first step and tool to direct residents to the appropriate recovery program and to help the city prioritize those with urgent needs. No documentation is required to take the Recovery Survey, and it takes less than 15 minutes to complete. While priority will be given to low and moderate income homeowners, assistance is available to homeowners of all income levels. An intake specialist will contact you after you complete the survey regarding the next steps.

The survey can be taken:

If you need assistance filling out the Survey, please call 832-393-0550 or visit one of the stationary HRC’s:

  • Northeast: 9551 N. Wayside, Houston, Texas 77028
  • Northwest: 13101 Northwest Freeway [Hwy. 290], Suite 101, Houston, Texas 77040
  • Southwest: 6464 Savoy Drive, Suite 110, Houston, Texas 77036
  • Southeast: 11550 Fuqua St., 3rd floor, Houston, Texas 77036 (in District E)

The stationary centers are open Monday and Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 to 3 p.m. These centers are closed on Sundays. For a map, click here.

The city received the $1.17 billion for housing recovery through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Texas General Land Office. The recovery funds include the HoAP, which offers five program options including:

  • Reimbursement for completed repairs
  • Homeowner-managed rehabilitation
  • City-managed rehabilitation and reconstruction
  • Buyouts
  • Interim mortgage assistance.

For more information regarding this program, please contact the Houston Recovery Center by calling 832-393-0550.

Scholarship fund assists UHCL students still impacted by Harvey

April 10th, 2019

University of Houston System applied for and has received a $500,000 grant, called the Rebuild Texas Fund, to assist students still struggling financially with the aftereffects of the 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

UH-Clear Lake has been designated to receive $200,000 of these funds, which can be applied to students’ financial aid package starting in the fall 2019 academic year.The UHCL scholarship is named the Qatar Harvey Fund Scholarship, in honor of the funds that Qatar has committed for this purpose.“These funds can be used for tuition, books, room and board, and anything related to completion of a student’s degree program,” said UHCL Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships Dwayne Busby.

In order to be eligible for funds, students must be currently enrolled or returning students who withdrew from a UH System campus in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. They must demonstrate an unmet financial need and material or financial hardship due to the hurricane. Undergraduate students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, and graduate and doctoral students must have a 3.0. They must be able to demonstrate via data or anecdotally, the impact of the hurricane on their financial circumstances.

Priority will be given to students who have exhausted all other forms of aid and who are nearing graduation based on credit hours remaining toward their degree.For more information, or to apply for the Qatar Harvey Fund Scholarship, visit www.uhcl.edu/scholarships.

City of Houston plans to start issuing reimbursement checks for Hurricane Harvey recovery

March 14th, 2019

The City of Houston is clearing hurdles to issue reimbursement checks for Harvey-related home repairs by the end of March.

On Wednesday, Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush approved the city’s request to reduce barriers for reimbursing homeowners. Also, City Council is expected to vote Wednesday, March 20 on a key set of homeowner contract documents that will allow the city’s to sign contracts with homeowners almost immediately.

“I have fought for the resources Houston needs to recover from Harvey, and now I’m fighting to make sure we get help to Houstonians without delay,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “In disaster recovery, there are a lot of challenges for homeowners including requirements set by state and federal agencies. I’m looking for ways to make the process smoother for everyone.”

The GLO authorized the city to use an additional method of verifying how much homeowners spent on recovery, by allowing homeowners to self-certify repair costs that are then verified by the city. The city and GLO still encourage homeowners to document recovery expenses with receipts when possible, while recognizing that self-certification will help speed the process. “We’re grateful to Commissioner Bush and the GLO for helping us reduce administrative burdens, while making sure that we’re good stewards of federal resources,” said Tom McCasland, the city’s Housing and Community Development Director.

Once City Council approves the standard contract forms for the Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP), the Housing and Community Development Department will move forward with signing contracts with the first round of homeowners for the reimbursement program option. The city will then verify repair costs and begin issuing checks to eligible homeowners. “Our target is the end of March to start cutting checks for reimbursement,” McCasland said.

Homeowners interested in participating in HoAP or other Harvey recovery programs should take the Harvey Recovery Survey at www.recovery.houstontx.gov/survey or 832-393-0550. The Survey takes less than 15 minutes, doesn’t require any documents, and is the first step in accessing recovery programs. More information is available at www.recovery.houstontx.gov.

Funds for Harvey Recovery Programs are provided by the City of Houston and the Texas General Land Office through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.

Governor helps honor area’s first responders

September 1st, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand when the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce hosted a dinner to honor first responders for their hard work during Hurricane Harvey.

Several hundred attended the event, which was held at the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Field in the hangers with military planes and helicopters. Many dignitaries were present including area legislators and Hilton Koch, owner of Hilton Furniture.

The setting was very impressive. Guests were greeted with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, after which they enjoyed dinner and Governor Abbott recognized the many first responders who helped thousands of victims during the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The Lone Star Flight Museum is located at 11551 Aerospace Ave. at Ellington Field and is a great venue for parties and events. Katie Jackman, the chief marketing officer, will be happy to help you book your next event.

Harvest Moon, Hurricanes, and that particularly bad boy, Harvey

September 1st, 2018

By Andrea Todaro

The Harvest Moon Regatta® is probably the best known sailboat race on the Texas Gulf Coast, although even many participants do not know its history, or the role that hurricanes have played in its evolution.

The first HMR was the brainchild of three sailors from Lakewood Yacht Club. As John Broderick told the story, one Friday night at Lakewood the bar conversation turned to the need for more opportunities to sail and in particular, opportunities to get offshore. Sail maker John Cameron offered “the best sails I’ve had were late in the fall in the Gulf after the summer doldrums are over and the winter Northers haven’t started.” Competitive racer Ed Bailey agreed, saying he missed the old Texas Offshore Race Circuit (“TORC”) sailing events. Broderick, a dedicated cruiser and, at the time, Lakewood’s commodore, agreed and said, “why don’t we organize something?”

The bar talk led to discussions with members of other area sailing clubs, some of which were held at Frank’s Shrimp Hut, which is now Hooter’s in Seabrook. The first regatta, in 1987, was planned as a four race event beginning with a skippers’ meeting on Friday, Sept. 25, and a kickoff party on Saturday, Sept. 26. Racing started on Thursday, Oct. 1 and ran through the 10th with race segments or “legs” from the Galveston jetties to Port Isabel, back up the coast to Port Aransas, back to the Galveston Jetties, and then up to Marker Two at the Clear Creek channel leading into Lakewood’s homeport, Seabrook.

The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is known as the “harvest moon” and is characterized by a bright orange color; it is followed by a “hunter’s moon. The “harvest moon” can occur as early as September 8th or as late as Oct. 7 which was the date of the “harvest moon” in 1987. Thus, in October 1987, with the races occurring between October 1st and the 10th, the Harvest Moon Regatta® was born. Seventeen yachts sailed that first year, with several bikini beach parties along the way.

In 1988, the “harvest moon” fell on Sept. 25, so the race start was scheduled for Thursday, Sept.22, but on Sept. 8 Hurricane Gilbert destroyed the Queen’s Point Marina at Port Isabel. The race start was delayed three weeks to Oct. 14 and the destination was changed to Port Aransas. Thus began the tradition of sailing to Port Aransas under a magnificent full moon, sometimes a “harvest moon” if it fell during the first seven days of October, otherwise a “hunter’s moon” if it fell on or after the 8th of October.

Mother Nature and Hurricane Gilbert are credited with the growth of the Harvest Moon Regatta® which grew steadily from the 17 yachts of 1987 to over 260 yachts in later years. The growth was due in large part to the perfect destination, Port Aransas. As John Broderick described it: “This ideal Texas port allows yacht owners and sailors to use minimal days from work to join in on what can be a most memorable overnight sail down the Texas coast during traditionally the best offshore sailing time of the year. And we can all do this in relative safety shared by some 200 other yachts.”

The race, open to sailors with no club affiliation as well as members of other area sailing clubs, became a bucket list item for many Texas sailors, many of whom had little or no offshore experience. The growth of Harvest Moon Regatta® also resulted in the formation of a charitable organization, Bay Access Sailing Foundation. Bay Access now serves as the regatta’s organizing authority, with race management provided by volunteers from Lakewood Yacht Club.

In 2015, Hurricane Patricia was forecast to envelop Port Aransas in a “catastrophic rain event” with the worst conditions forecast for Sunday morning when sailors would be required to leave the relative safety of Port Aransas City Marina for the trip back to Houston and various other home ports. Numerous warnings from weather officials eventually prompted race organizers to cancel the race for the first time in its history. Despite the race cancellation, the party in Port Aransas went on, and some of the more seasoned sailors sailed the course and were able to obtain slips in the City Marina harbor to ride out the gale force winds that arrived as forecast on Sunday morning.

In 2017, when the actual “harvest moon” again fell in October, on the 5th, Hurricane Harvey put a new twist on the story. Hitting the Texas coast near Port Aransas on Aug. 25, the storm devastated “the ideal Texas port” and dumped torrential rain on the entire Houston area. This time, instead of canceling the race or rescheduling it, race organizers decided to reformat the race as a triangle race, similar to Lakewood’s TORC event, the Heald Bank Regatta, which is traditionally held in April. Beginning and ending at the Galveston Jetties, the Regatta was followed by an awards party at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, where regatta volunteers put a special focus on raising money for the devastated Port Aransas. Port Aransas city officials were surprised to receive a check for about $20,000 from the regatta, and they are looking forward to the return of the regatta this year, although it will be many years before Port Aransas recovers to pre-Harvey prosperity.

Dickinson Bar-b-que and Steakhouse

August 1st, 2018

Keith and Holly Lilley with some of Dickinson Bar-B-Que and Steakhouse’s finest fare.

By Xander Thomas

Dickinson Bar-b-que and Steakhouse opened for business on Oct. 3, 2009, but was all but wiped out in late 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

“It took 6 months, a million dollars worth of lost revenue, $700,000 for renovation and about $300,000 worth of cash to bring it back to life.” said restaurant owner Keith Lilley.

To make matters worse, the Lilley’s second restaurant, Marais, located right next door to Dickinson BBQ, was opened just four months before Harvey hit. But owners Keith and Holly Lilley were determined not to let this ruin their businesses.

“Dickinson BBQ was completely destroyed,” Keith said. “We reopened it on Jan. 26, six months later.”

But it wasn’t just the business that could have suffered from the massive storm, what about the employees?

“We all were damaged by Harvey, too, so, what’s the worst thing you can do to someone who’s lost everything is now tell them they’re unemployed.” Keith said, “So we couldn’t do that.”

The Lilleys made the extra effort to make sure their employees would still be able to pay their bills, and let them know they would all still have their positions.

“We also carried all 32 employees and 3 managers for six months.”

He says that while he and his wife really didn’t want to leave all of the people that had worked for them for years high and dry, this was also a decision for the business.

He says that a restaurant that has such a skilled, long-term staff shouldn’t just throw these people away, and that valuable employees are hard to come by. But he has some credit in the strong work force that he has built.

“Hire em right. Train em right. Treat em right.” Keith said.

This is how the Lilleys have put together a team of people that have stuck by them for years.

But this isn’t the only part of the business they feel proud to have built up. Keith says that all through his career of building up his businesses, he had people telling him he would never make it, that it wouldn’t work. Now he and his wife take pride in the restaurants they have created.

All he has to say about that?

His motto. “Yippee Ki-Yay.”

But what is it that keeps people coming back?

“Our menu is a combination of have you ever thought of takin’ this, stuffin’ it with that, fryin’ it with this and dippin’ it in that?”

Keith says the unique selection of dishes were a collaborative effort between him, his wife and the head chef.

“Trial and error to be the best in class drives our menu creation. That also includes Marais, our other restaurant next door, where we and Executive Chef Frank Pannitti dream up some of the finest food you’ve ever had.”

Dickinson Bar-B-Que and Steakhouse is located at 2111 F.M. 517 E., Dickinson, TX. 77539

Area still facing many challenges county judges tell BayTran crowd

July 1st, 2018

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta and Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, from left, stop for a photo together at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South Hotel.

The annual State of the Counties Luncheon is always the highlight of the year for the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership, and this year was no different with President Theresa Rodriguez greeting many area mayors and city councilors, eager for an update.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Brazoria County Judge Mark Sebesta each talked about the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the transportation challenges they face and what they hope for the future.

After Chairman David Hamilton welcomed the crowd — that included Mayors Pat Hallisey of League City, Jeff Wagner of Pasadena, Tom Reid of Pearland, Carl Joiner of Kemah, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Thom Kolupski of Seabrook, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Mark Denman of Nassau Bay — the Charles A. Jacobson Award was presented by Judge Emmett.

The 2018 recipient was Port of Houston Authority Chairman Janiece Longoria, an attorney who is a frequent speaker on the importance of Port Houston, infrastructure and transportation.

Noting that the award, is presented each year to a community leader who continues the work started by aerospace executive Chuck Jacobson, the founder of the Bay Area Transportation Partnership who worked tirelessly to promote and advance transportation and infrastructure development around the region, Emmett, himself a past recipient of the award, seemed pleased to make the presentation, adding that it is “people like her that makes society tick.”

Judge Emmett gave a quick update on Harris County, which he told the crowd is the only county in the entire country with 2 million people, noting that one gets more house for his money here than most places before going on to point out some of the difficulties with the county having property taxes as its only income, whereas it needed more revenue sources. “We need an honest conversation about building roads,” he told the crowd. “We need your help.”

Judge Sebesta said Harvey was not a hurricane, but a bad-a– rain storm that flooded 13,000 homes in Brazoria County. “Harvey was the significant event of a lifetime,” he added.

Then, to update the BayTran crowd, he said the Highway 288 project was actually under construction “…after talking about it for years.” The project actually came to fruition through a partnership working with Pearland and TxDOT, he added.

Judge Henry, just re-elected to his third term and happy over the recent passage of a proposed bond issue, said Galveston County is facing many challenges with all the road work TxDOT has under way along I-45 from the north county line past Highways 518 and 646. “Evacuation this summer might be a real challenge,” he said, adding with a smile that the best travel time along the freeway in Galveston County is between 2 and 4 a.m. The construction work will not be completed until 2021, he said. Meanwhile, work on the Pelican Island bridge is getting started.

Other officials in the crowd included Galveston County Commissioners Ken Clark, Joe Giustie and Darrell Apffel, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, plus City Councilors Hank Dugie and Larry Millican of League City, Nancy Ojeda of La Porte, Natalie Picha of Seabrook, Thomas Schoenbein of Pasadena and Ashley Graves of Nassau Bay.

Port Commissioner John Kennedy, second from left, arrives at BayTran’s State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South to find himself in the company of, from left, Harris County liaison Ron Servis, La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby and Ken Fickes with Harris County Transit Services.

Houston’s Local Action Plan Open for Public Input Until June 21

June 8th, 2018

The City of Houston has released its draft local action plan for $1.15 billion in housing recovery funding. The plan is available for review and public comment from Thursday, June 7 through Thursday, June 21 and will be submitted to City Council for approval on June 27. The plan includes a local needs assessment, programs and budget, and spending timelines for $1,155,119,250 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

“Hurricane Harvey hit hard for many Houstonians, but it didn’t break our spirit,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “With these recovery resources, our goal is to make historic progress in ensuring that every Houstonian has a safe, affordable place to live, and that our neighborhoods provide economic opportunities for Houstonians to thrive.”

Since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the availability of housing recovery funds in February, the City has been working with Harris County, the State of Texas, and the federal government to ensure that Houston gets its fair share of these resources and that they are locally controlled. Submitting a local action plan to the Texas General Land Office (GLO) is a requirement for Houston to receive this funding.

The Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) has been convening public meetings and focus groups to inform the development of the local action plan. Since April, HCDD has worked with civic groups, the Super Neighborhood Council, and City Council Members to host or participate in 17 community meetings, focus groups, and public events to get input on Houstonians’ recovery priorities.

“Houstonians must have a voice in their own recovery,” said Housing Director Tom McCasland. “Our department will continue to be out in the community, listening to people’s experience, concerns, and needs so that we can build a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable city.”

More than 600 people have participated in events focused on long-term recovery since April and 383 have taken HCDD’s recovery survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/HoustonHarveyRecovery. Additional meetings will be held throughout the comment period before the draft goes to City Council on June 27. A list of upcoming events is posted at www.houstontx.gov/housing and on the HCDD Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/HoustonHCDD.

Later this summer, Houston’s plan will be incorporated into the State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery: Hurricane Harvey – Round 1 as a substantial amendment. Harris County’s plan will be incorporated in the same amendment.

Public comments on the local action plan may be submitted by email to: Fatima.Wajahat@houstontx.gov or by mail: HCDD, ATTN: Fatima Wajahat, 601 Sawyer, Suite 400, Houston, TX 77007. View the draft Plan at:

To learn more about CDBG-DR and upcoming events related to disaster recovery, please call 832.394.6200 or visit www.houstontx.gov/housing.